Breaking Bennett’s heart (or how he finally learned to swim)

It’s a safety issue, really. I 100% believe that all kids should learn how to swim. Forget paying for ballet class for toddlers and soccer lessons for preschoolers. If you don’t learn how to swim, then you will be handicapped for life. Now I know that drowning can still happen, even to strong swimmers, which is why I believe it’s so critical that all children learn how to be safe in the water. Floating, treading water, survival skills, etc.

Sounds easy, right? As a teenager, I swam on the competitive swim team (Go Lane 3!), was a lifeguard at 4 different swimming pools, and taught swim lessons for 5 years. So when it came down to teaching my own children how to swim, I should have had no problems.

Life’s funny like that.

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Simon has always been a fish in the water. In fact, he learned how to go off the diving board the summer that he turned 4 years old. I made a deal with him that he couldn’t go off the high dive until he turned at least 6 years old. Bennett, on the other hand, has been a different story.

I always made excuses for him too.

Don’t worry, he’ll catch up! He just doesn’t like water in his face!

Poor sweet Bennett. Happy to hang out on the side of the pool and watch all the others have all the fun. Until this past week when I finally put my foot down and signed him up for swimming lessons. We are at the point where he has GOT TO LEARN because it’s A SAFETY ISSUE (see above) because his EXPERT SWIMMING MOTHER CAN’T TEACH HIM.

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And oh boy, did he let us all know how much he disliked swimming lessons. The first day, his instructors wouldn’t let him out of the pool until he first put his mouth in the water. The second day, he screamed and screamed and screamed in his instructor’s ear. From the side of the pool, my Mama heart was hurting. I don’t force my kids to do anything and choose to parent gently. But this? Was the line. Sink or swim time, buddy.

I got up and told the instructor that I thought it was time for some BOBS. (That’s swimmers code for: fully submerged down and under in the water). We counted to 3, he stopped screaming and plugged his nose, went under the water, and came back out of the water screaming again. The entire pool clapped and watched. It would be fair to say that he made quite a splash with every single person watching.

Scream, 123!, under the water. Scream, 123!, under the water. On repeat.

After lessons, he told me he was never doing BOBBERS (his word) again. Ever.

The 3rd day, he screamed some more and even louder. His teacher (bless her sweet and patient heart) said that every time he screamed, she would do another BOB. He finally, finally, finally got the message that we weren’t kidding. A few BOBs later and he was calmed down enough to work on back float and front float. At the end of the lesson, he came out of the water smiling.

Since last Friday he is ever so slowly taking teeny tiny baby steps towards becoming a swimmer.

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We have a ways to go before the job is done, but I am so incredibly proud of my boy. It almost broke my heart (and his) to force him under the water in that way, but he needed it to get past his fear. The good news is that he’s pretty proud of himself too.

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Which is kinda like the icing on the cake, or in this case, sinking and swimming done right.


One thought on “Breaking Bennett’s heart (or how he finally learned to swim)

  1. That’s awesome! Yay, Bennett! Liam doesn’t know how to swim, and I think we need to just cough up the $$$ and get him lessons. He’s the same way — on the sidelines, doesn’t like water in face, etc., etc., etc!

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